The Scarlet Letter

By: Nathaniel Hawthorne


Historical Fiction/Romance

Summary Of The Scarlet Letter

Hester Prynne has been imprisoned for committing the ultimate sin of adultery. How do the townspeople know she committed such a crime? Hester now has a daughter named Pearl, and her husband has been away for two years. As a punishment, she is released from prison and brought to a public platform, which all the townspeople stare at her in disgust. She is forced to wear a sewn scarlet letter “A” on all of her clothing to constantly remind her of what she has done.

While sitting among the townspeople she recognizes her husband in the crowd, who is dressed in disguise. Later her husband comes to her, forcing to keep his identity a secret, so that he can seek revenge of her lover. He soon discovers that Reverend Dimmesdale is the likely father of Hester’s baby. Roger Chillingworth, her husband, constantly examines the reverend.

Reverend Dimmesdale is afraid to confess his sin publicly and is feeling extremely guilty. Hester soon realizes the pain he is suffering from, and reveals her husbands identity to the reverend. The two of them then make a plan to start a new life together in England. Although the reverend doesn’t follow through with this plan, among the platform that Hester was humiliated on, he reveals his sin to the public just before dying.

Within the same year, her husband also passes away, and leaves all his money and property to Pearl. Hester and Pearl are then able to start a new life together in England.

Year’s later, Hester returns to the town. She then soon dies and is buried beside the reverend, and their gravestone is marked with the letter “A.”

How It Relates To The Essential Questions

The Scarlet Letter relates to more than one of the essential questions. The two essential questions I am going to discuss are, “what is the relationship between literature and place?” and “how does literature shape or reflect society?”

The townspeople had strict beliefs and values. They were convinced that Hester’s sin was wrong and she should be punished. She was forced to wear the scarlet letter “A” on all of her clothing as a constant reminder of what she has done. She then had to stand on a platform in front of all townspeople while they stared at her with disgusted looks. If Hester had lived in a different place or town she wouldn’t have had to go through all these punishments and public humility for her sin. For that reason, this book relates to the essential question, “What is the relationship between literature and place?”

The second essential question I am going to explain is, “how does literature shape or reflect society?” Hester suffered from being severely mistreated for having an affair and conceiving a child. The punishments she received for this sin were believed to be reasonable at this time period.

Today, many women still find themselves in relationships where they aren’t content and happy, which often leads to having an affair. Although it is still believed to be wrong, women today aren’t punished the way Hester was. Many affairs today usually end up leading to divorce, which wasn’t an option during Hester’s time.

The Scarlet Letter has helped change the way others are punished for sins and crimes they have committed.

Bailey Moser